Sunday, November 10, 2013

Revisiting Radio Dramas

Recently, while hubby was recuperating from some surgery, I came home to find that he had downloaded an old radio drama called A Date with Judy. This was a new one to me, but a delightful visit to the radio drama archives. When we got home this past Friday, there was a package waiting for us of Lum and Abner broadcasts. Neither of us had listened to this show before, so we are enjoying getting acquainted together with this store-keeping duo and their Jot It Down store and library. (Listen to Lum and Abner here.) In tribute to Judy, Lum and Abner, this week's blog is a tip of the hat to old radio dramas.

In the episode of A Date with Judy, Judy wants a new dress that her date, Oogie, hasn't seen her in to wear to the upcoming school dance. She tries every plead and manipulation she can think of to convince her father that she desperately needs a particular dress she has seen in the window of a department store. Frankly, it was refreshing to listen to a story about a teen whose biggest problem in life was to wheedle a new dress out of a parent!

Of course, when radio drama is mentioned, most people instantly think of The Lone Ranger or of George Burns and Gracie Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly and perhaps, the Great Gildersleeve. (Speaking of which, does anyone know where to buy all of the episodes of The Great Gildersleeve?) Anyone familiar with radio dramas recognizes The Great Gildersleeve Chuckle. If you don't, it's time you listened to an episode so you know what you are missing!
Leroy and "Gildy"
You can do so here.

The Great Gildersleeve was the first spin-off of a radio show. Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve was a nemesis of Fibber McGee on the popular Fibber McGee and Molly show. In his own show, he is rearing his orphaned niece and nephew, Marjorie and Leroy. For a synopsis of the show and some interesting trivia, click here.

Harold Peary, the voice of "Gildy" also went on to play the part on several Great Gildersleeve movies which can be pre-viewed here.

While doing a quick research of old radio dramas, the first and probably most famous drama ever produced was Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds. You can listen here.

Orson Welles
For those of you not familiar with the drama, the first two-thirds of the broadcast was a series of news bulletins about an alien attack on earth which caused panic among many listeners who believed the reports were authentic. The broadcast was based on a novel published by H. G. Wells in 1898. There was a large public outcry against the broadcast due to its deception, but since negative publicity can often make someone's career as easily as positive publicity can, Orson Welles fame was ensured.

A movie was made about the terror that ensued throughout America from listeners of the broadcast. You can read the Wikipedia article here. 

Although radio dramas are pretty much extinct on American radio, they still thrive in other part of the world, Great Britain, for instance. The BBC currently has two ongoing radio soap operas, The Archers and Silver Street. Radio New Zealand has an award-winning soap opera, You Me Now, that is currently popular.

For anyone interested in re-visiting old-time radio dramas, here is a list and links to some of the best-loved ones.

Name of ShowStartFinishLinkSynopsis
Abbott & Costello19421949 ArchivesComic routines
Amos and Andy19281960 ArchivesAmos & Andy own Fresh Air Taxi Co, named because their cab has no roof! Friend and huckster, Kingfish's exploits add flavor to the show.
Burns and Allen19361950 ArchivesSitcom format that includes songs from the Sportsman Quartet aka "The Swantet".
Ellery Queen19391948ArchivesMysteries based on the Ellery Queen books.
Fibber McGee & Molly19351959ArchivesBased on Fibber and his wife, Molly's comedy including several running gags including fibber McGee's Closet.
The Lone Ranger19331954ArchivesA masked Texas Ranger gallops around righting wrongs.
The Whistler19421955Archives"I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night…"

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